To increase mutual understanding and support friendly and peaceful relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.
That’s the goal of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. No small goal; no small task. Sustained, generation after generation, with new energy from each new recipient.
Four graduates of the Education, Schooling and Society program earned the chance to carry on this tradition of service when they were awarded Fulbright grants to teach abroad next year. Nadia Braun will teach in Russia, Anthony Nguyen will teach in Ecuador, and Trini Bui will teach in Vietnam. A fourth student, Adam Moeller, was awarded a Fulbright grant but decided to pursue graduate school at Stanford University so that he could go directly into teaching in the United States.
Bui is also a member of the Alliance for Catholic Education. She graduated from Notre Dame in 2016 and has taught middle school language arts at St. George Catholic School in Fort Worth, Texas, the past two years. She will receive a Master of Education degree from Notre Dame in July and hopes that her Fulbright experience will give her an opportunity to connect more deeply with her own Vietnamese roots so that she can better understand her heritage while also learning to help her students explore their own cultural identities.
Braun majored in Russian and is working this summer as a counselor for Concordia Language Villages, a set of language immersion camps in Northern Minnesota. She is discerning whether to pursue teaching Russian or a job in higher education administration.
Braun’s mother, who studied Russian in college, was a counselor at the camps and took her daughter when she was young. “My connection to Russian has been a huge blessing in my life,” said Braun, whose given name is Nadezhda. “It was always a part of (my mother’s) identity and initially it was a way we shared that same connection. It really grew into a passion of my own as well.”
Braun said that ESS and her professors had a profound impact on her deciding to teach.
“ESS doesn’t just look at how to teach, it looks at how does teaching impact society, how does the system itself impact society and how are all of those pieces linked together,” she said. “I found the system and the way it works fascinating.”
Braun said the range of experiences she’s had learning–whether in ESS classrooms or language immersion camps—prepared her in many ways for her journey to Russia.
“(My) experiences have taught me the importance of empathy, listening, and learning about other cultures and how critical it is to come in with a humble perspective and realize that you are there to learn, listen and love,” Braun said. “That was what continued to draw me to Russian, and the Fulbright has that same mission of being a cultural ambassador.”
Nguyen graduated from Notre Dame after majoring in neuroscience and pre-medicine and is applying to medical school. When he returns from his year in Ecuador, he will be ready to serve others in that new capacity.
“I knew I wanted to go into medicine for a really long time,” Nguyen said, “but I did have this other interest in education, service, and community outreach that I knew I wanted to explore.”
That interest led him to the Fulbright. “I love learning about other people’s cultures and I love being able to share my own,” said Nguyen, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Vietnam. “My parents have always really emphasized that whatever the circumstances you’re born into, it’s always important to work hard. I knew how lucky I was, and to see that some children were just not born into the same circumstances felt very unfair to me.”
Nguyen volunteered in Ecuador last summer through the Center for Social Concerns’ International Summer Learning program, and he is eager to draw on his experiences at Notre Dame when he returns.
“Notre Dame has definitely given me so many things that I know I wouldn’t have been able to do or see or experience otherwise," Nguyen said. “I learned community service and how to interact with people different from me, from different backgrounds, different cultures, who’ve had very different experiences than I have. I will always be grateful.”